I ate the best beef of my life last week at 131 Main in Cornelius (NC) — another bon voyage whoopdedo for Dora the Explorer. I ordered the Thai Style Steak Salad and expected the usual chewy beef bites that bite back. But these were like butter — tender, sweet and with a distinctive flavor. I found out later from the manager that the beef with the Asian noodles, cabbage, mint, fresh avocado and mango was trimmed from filets mignon. Beef bites, in other words, that relate to the usual as Dame Maggie Smith, to Britney Spears.
Of course, what I photographed was the mile-high peanut butter pie that I shared with Stoic the Vast. Even though he wasn’t crazy for the cinnamon in it, I was, and I also loved the crunchy nuts in the crumb crust. What a meal, what a meal!
We heard from Dora in Tanzania this morning, saying that she was on her way to another island near Zanzibar this afternoon, getting to know her 17 classmates. And she’s supposed to be home Dec. 15, the day “The Hobbit” opens.
I saw the first aster blossom yesterday; we have fewer hummingbirds and the goldfinches are stocking up for winter among the sunflowers. Fall will come, and we’ll drink cocoa and use blankets at night.
Last week we had another bon voyage party with old friends from the newsroom, Dora and her friend, who’s just back from a year in Russia. We had tomato pie, Molly Katzen’s Szechuan green beans, green peppers stuffed with scalloped sweet corn (a Mayo Clinic heart-healthy recipe), the Silver Palate’s zucchini bread, ice cream sandwiches with fresh raspberries and lots o’ wine, including a bubbly toast to these two adventuresome young citizens of the world.
I couldn’t find my Presbyterian cookbook when I was ready to make the tomato pie so I used the Episcopalian one. Mistake. For once, the Episcopalians held back more than the Frozen Chosen (I can use that expression because I am one.) The Presbyterian recipe has more basil and tomatoes and even though I’m showing you a picture of one I made, the other is better. I promise.
The Presbyterian pie, like so much in our church, depends on your ability to wait. Give it 15 to 30 minutes to “set” after you remove it from the oven, and it will be firm and cheesy, not tomato-juicy.
Edie Holland contributed this Fresh Tomato and Vidalia Tart to our church’s 250th anniversary cookbook, “Fourth Creek Meeting House Encore (2003). And it’s worth it, by the way, to look for a Vidalia onion — they’re almost always significantly sweeter than other yellow onions.
Fresh tomato and vidalia tart
1 refrigerated pie shell
8 ounces cheese, shredded (I used Cheddar — a touch of blue would be good, too, or Swiss or Havarti)
2 tablespoons fresh basil, cut into thin strips with scissors
4 medium-size ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, sliced and drained for 15 minutes
1 large onion sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup good-quality olive oil
Heat oven to 400.° Fit pie shell into tart pan. Sprinkle cheese over crust and top with basil shreds. Arrange tomato and onion slices over cheese. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. Bake 30 to 40 minutes. Serves 8.